How Climate Change Could Affect Wine

Vineyard in Sicilly

This morning we had a presentation by Antonio Busalacchi founding director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) and Professor in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Maryland College Park. He has done research on how predicted climate changes in the next 100 years would effect the wine production areas of the world.  I wrote a brief summary of what I heard…

He analysed climate predictions for 2055 and 2100 for wine areas that were large enough to resolve data for from 4 different climate change models and averaged the results from those models in order to reduce prediction errors. Three different warming rates were used, low, medium and high, high being a continuation of the current evolution of emissions and economic development.

To briefly highlight some of his conclusions, in Europe, most wine regions are predicted to have a 2C increase in average temperatures by 2055 and 4C by 2100. Precipitation reductions of 10-30% would leave some areas dangerously dry for viticulture. This presents problems for the types and quality of wines produced in these areas. Bordeaux for instance, has around 1,300 growing degree days (GDD) at present helping it to be an ideal location for producing high quality table wine. The analysis predict that this will rise to 1,600 GDDs. This would put the region into a lower class of quality in terms of the viticultural GDD classification. Busalacchi looked at how the predicted climate change would effectively change the latitude of today’s wine areas – for example, Bordeaux with the envisioned climate of 2055 would be more like the Rioja region of today. That particular example may give some hope for the situation, Rioja obviously having a climate suited to fine wines, however, the grapes and wine styles that have been fairly consistent throughout the history of Bordeaux wine would need to change to accommodate that climate change.

Other wine area “transpositions” that I remember were Burgundy becoming more like Bordeaux today (although that would not be possible with its current reliance on pinot noir for red wines), Piemonte becoming like Corsica, the Duero more like Jerez, Alsace more like the Cote d’Azur and Vienna more like Croatia.

Some of the more northern wine areas will benefit with increased growing degree days, and may be the areas for the finest wines of the future, today’s finest wine areas could be producing great wine, but maybe not with the finesse of today. Some of the hottest wine areas today like the Duero and Tuscany could become too hot to produce high quality wines.

For the rest of the world, 2055 predictions on average were slightly less, 1.5-2C average increase and 3-4C for 2100.

When looking at the Western US wine regions, Napa faces similar problems to Bordeaux, having almost the same GDD average. The outlook would be that some of the more northern wine areas such as in Oregon could become the areas of finest production.

Australia has some extra problems due to having a number of wine areas that are already hot, making a 2-4C increase untenable. The precipitation decreases are also of significance there as many areas are already too dry for viticulture and rely on irrigation.

Due to altitude or oceanic influences, wine areas of Chile, Argentina and New Zealand have reduced temperature increase predictions, saving them from some of the changes that would affect areas mentioned above.

So overall, we can expect a loss of traditional character from many wine areas and a shift of quality production North (or South below the equator). Sea level rises could also affect low level areas. Temperature increases would shift the incidence of some vine diseases. And wine laws may need to be changed to cope with the results of climate changes.

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2 Responses

  1. Great post. It’s going to be very interesting to see how all of this pans out. I’ve always liked California wine, so it’s interesting to see your thoughts on this.

  2. “global temperatures, after flattening out, have in recent months shown a sharp fall, wholly unpredicted by those computer models on which the proponents of warming orthodoxy rely. This raises rather large question marks over whether the theory has actually got it right.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/04/06/ealawson106.xml&page=1

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